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Captioning Solutions for Handheld Media and Mobile Devices
Closed descriptions

This page contains information about adding closed descriptions to movies playable with iTunes, the iPhone and the iPod touch. Note that some other playback methods-- QuickTime Player, iPod nano, and Apple TV-- do not currently provide a way to access extra audio tracks although they may do so in the future.

Download a sample movie with both closed descriptions and captions.

Adding closed descriptions to M4V movies

First, record audio descriptions using QuickTime or another sound editor. Next, add the descriptions to the original movie and export the video with an open-described audio track:

  1. Open the original, undescribed movie in the QuickTime, then open Window/Show Movie Properties.
  2. Open the first audio-description sound file in a new QuickTime window. Select (Edit/Select All) and copy (Edit/Copy) the entire sound clip.
  3. Switch back to the video window. Position the playhead at the end of the pause where the first description will go. Press the O key to mark the out-point of the segment.
  4. Move the playhead backwards until you reach the beginning of this pause. Press the I key to mark the in-point of the segment. This selects the segment of the movie clip that will receive the audio description.
  5. Choose Edit/Add to Movie. In the track list at the top of the Movie Properties window, you will see that "Sound Track 2" is now one of the choices.
  6. Open File > Save As... rename the clip and save the file as a self-contained movie.
  7. Repeat steps 3-5 to insert subsequent audio descriptions. Always remember to select the segment that will contain the audio description by first defining the end point and then the beginning point.
  8. When all the descriptions have been added to the movie, save the file and then choose File/Export... and export it as Movie to QuickTime Movie. This will combine all the audio tracks (the program audio plus all the descriptions) into a single track, giving you an open-described movie.
Now, add a closed-description track to the final movie:

  1. Open the original, undescribed video in QuickTime. Choose File/Export..., then choose Movie to iPod. Close the original video, then open the newly exported video in a new QuickTime window. Set this window aside.
  2. In QuickTime, open the video containing the open-described track.
  3. Open Window/Show Movie Properties. Click once on the audio track to highlight it, as shown in the following image, then click on the Extract button in the upper-left corner of the window.
The Show Movie Properties window showing a track highlighted in the track list.

  1. The extracted audio track will open in a new QuickTime window. Select (Edit/Select All) and copy (Edit/Copy) the entire sound clip.
  2. Switch to the undescribed video and open Window/Show Movie Properties. In the player window, position the playhead at the beginning of the timeline, then choose Edit/Add to Movie to add the audio track with descriptions to the movie.
  3. In the Show Movie Properties window, double-click on each of the audio tracks and rename them with names that reflect their content: e.g., "Audio without descriptions" and "Audio with descriptions."
  4. Uncheck the track that contains the descriptions, as shown below, and ensure that the undescribed track is checked. This will make the undescribed track the default audio when the movie is played.
Show Movie Properties window with the described-audio track unchecked.

  1. Click on the undescribed audio track, then click the Other Settings button. From the Language drop-down menu, choose English. From the Alternate drop-down menu, choose the track with descriptions, as shown in the image below.

Show Movie Properties window showing the main language as English and the alternate language as described audio.

  1. Click on the described audio track, then click the Other Settings button. From the Language drop-down menu, choose English. From the Alternate drop-down menu, choose the track without descriptions.
  2. Close the Show Movie Properties window and save the file as a self-contained movie. (It will be saved with the MOV file extension, but it will still be playable on the iPhone or iPod.)
  3. Check your work by opening the movie in iTunes. Choose Controls/Audio & Subtitles. You will see the two audio tracks listed in the submenu, as shown below. The undescribed track will be the default. To switch to the described track, simply chose it from the menu.
The Audio & Subtitles submenu in iTunes.

Alternatively, roll the pointer over the video window to reveal the control bar. Click once on the balloon image and choose a track from the list, as shown below.

The iTunes controller displaying a list of languages.

  1. To check the video on the iPhone or iPod touch, sync the device with iTunes and then open the movie. Tap the screen to reveal the controller, then tap the alternate-language balloon that is visible on the left edge, as seen below.

Controller with alternate-language balloon visible.

Choose the audio track from the Language menu, seen in the image below, then tap Done.

Alternate language menu showing choices for audio with and without descriptions.